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In a time when the well-being of the medical community is most essential, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported more than 200 incidents of physical violence against health care workers linked to COVID-19.
Peter Maurer stated that, since March, the ICRC recorded 208 COVID-19 related attacks against health care systems and workers in 13 countries.
“The COVID-19 crisis is fast threatening to become a protection crisis,” Maurer told the United Nations Security Council over a video call.
Though violence against the industry's employees is unfortunately nothing new, health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic are experiencing harassment, stigmatization and physical violence, according to an ICRC statement. Some health care professionals and people they were caring for have even been killed.
Maurer explained that the socioeconomic impacts from the pandemic will cause new waves of despair, leaving people facing hunger and poverty exposed to abuse and exploitation.
The message comes in sharp contrast to the outpouring support for health care workers amid the crisis.
A community of concerned advocates representing medical and humanitarian global organizations in the 13 countries, spanning more than 30 million health care professionals, is calling for the protection of the workers and solidarity against violence.
“Health-care workers and facilities and medical vehicles should never be a target of violence, and we urge governments, communities and weapon bearers to respect and protect health care at all times, and to contribute to creating a protective environment in which health care can be provided safely,” as written in the declaration.
Health care professionals working under paramount stress, and victims of violence, must be offered mental health support, the declaration maintains.